We decided to take a closer look at the Gillette Super Speed to see how well it holds up to scrutiny; no surprise, it’s as good as ever. Read on!
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A Brief History of Gillette
The brand Gillette has been synonymous with shaving since your grandpappy was a wee tyke soiling his knickerbockers getting into all kinds of mischief. A company that outlives two world wars, hippies, grunge rock, and the Eisenhower administration has to be doing something right – and it’s not just marketing. Gillette has been on the front lines of shaving innovation for over 100 years and, for better or worse, are leading the way into the 21st century.
It’s probably that most men, before the 1800’s or so, had long, flowing beards. The ones that didn’t either weren’t genetically capable of growing a mane, or were crazy enough to shave with a blade that would make Crocodile Dunndee proud. Eventually, barbers started spreading the gospel of a great shave, but men had to make a special trip to the barbershop in order to reap the benefits. Razors, at the time, were expensive, and required practice and skill to use effectively. A bloodless shave was a commodity, and a smooth chin was a rare feature.
Then, in 1901, the Sultan of Shave, the Friar for Fop, the Duke of Dapper, King C. Gillette patented the first safety razor and changed mens grooming forever. Gillette saw the value in manufacturing disposable products that minimized the maintenance of daily sharpening that straight razors of the time required. Additionally, the safety razor was easier to handle and required less skill to successfully shave without accidentally mutilating one’s most-recognizable feature.
Gillette was able to to improved on the forged blade of the time by producing blades that were stamped out of a sheet. This not only made for quicker production, but also a high profit margin. Production for the then-named Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1903, and the company set the gold standard selling a whopping 51 razors and 168 blades.
Despite a lackluster first-year, Gillette managed to increase razor sales by over 1500% and blade sales by over 700% the following year. By the end of the decade, Gillette was manufacturing razors in five countries in North America and Europe.
Incredible sales figures didn’t deter Gillette Safety Razor Company from resting on it’s laurels. In 1920, the company put an emphasis on research to ever-improve the way guys get a great shave. Today, Gillette has two dedicated research and development facilities in Boston and Reading, UK.
Today Gillette is owned by Proctor and Gamble, and continues to innovate the world of modern shaving. Gillette products are endorsed by athletes in virtually every major professional sport and ads can be found featuring leading men of Hollywood and Grammy Award winners. Despite their continued innovation, is it possible that the company peaked in the mid-20th century with safety razors that maximized mass productions and a quality, classic shave?
Pros and Cons of the Super Speed
First off, the pros: this razor is gorgeous. Granted, each of them has a different look, but the majority of them look like your typical DE safety razor – the chrome handle, the rounded adjustable razor head, and the flared bottom to make it stand upright. Still, the divine heaviness and gridlike texture of the stippled handle is really nice, since it makes for a lovely sight to a razor that is still incredibly balanced. Since it’s a bit heavier than normal, it makes it that much easier to let the blade’s weight do the work for you, making shaving a snap.
The history of the Super Speed is one of the most interesting things about it. The Super Speeds in particular were made in the mid to late 1950s, the Golden Era of wet shaving, and carries with them that appropriate history. There are all manner of different varieties, from Red Dots to Blue Dots to Flare Tips and more, each one with their own idiosyncrasies that make them unique among safety razors. Each model is like its own unique snowflake, which makes them great for collecting.
One of the few cons I can attribute to it is its relative unavailability – you have to do a bit more digging to actually find one. You can’t find them in a store, chiefly because Gillette stopped making them in favor of the rubber-handled disposable razor market! Luckily, though, these babies are pretty cheap once you actually find one. Because they’re so old and relatively high in number, you’ll probably find an awesome one four about $4 on eBay somewhere. Just do a little digging on online auction sites or around town at flea markets and secondhand shops, and it shouldn’t take long before you bump into one.
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